Recession Buys: Champagne from Sotheby's & Lobster from Maine

  • August 26, 2009 22:45

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Lobster prices have declined steeply with the recession.

Belgian billionaire Albert Frere, 83, hopes to sell 3,000 bottles of Bordeaux and Champagne from his private cellar  on Sept. 23 at Sotheby's London. Auction proceeds are earmarked for a charitable foundation named in honor of his son who died a decade ago in a car accident.

Frere aims to raise as much as 983,480 pounds ($1.6 million) to benefit the Charles-Albert Frere Foundation, which supports disadvantaged children and adults.

According to Sotheby's London-based wine director James Reed, prices for Champagne and French wine dropped 20% last November and December as global economies plummeted.

Buyers of the most expensive lots at last fall's wine auctions were largely Asian. One reason, in Febraury 2008, Hong Kong dropped the import duty on wine. Concurrently, the Asian business community latched onto French wine as part of their social culture.

Chateau Lafite is popular with Asian auction buyers. Twelve-bottle cases of 1986 Chateau Lafite are expected to reach 7,000 pounds at the Sept. 23 sale.

The Frere sale features vintages that the esteemed collector hand-selected from French chateaux and stored in his home cellar. Among the Champagnes, Dom Perignon’s 1996 vintage bears an estimate of 550 pounds to 650 pounds for a six-bottle case.

Albert Frere, billionaire Belgian wine collector.

The pedigree of the well-chosen Frere collection may be enough to stimulate bidding wars.

If prices linger at last fall's levels, or edge just above, a case of Dom Perignon would pair well with Maine lobster. Wholesale prices for hard-shell lobster has dropped to about $4.50 a pound, down from $6.50 in 2005.

According to the New York Times, the Maine fishing industry is in turmoil with the steepest declines in lobster prices seen in generations. Crime, even gun battles, has ensued over lobstering territories.

The recession may not seem like a celebratory time, but for toasting with Champagne and enjoying a special lobster meal, the price is right.



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